Start By Changing Your Thinking
Somebody once said, “You can’t make an omelette without first breaking a few eggs.” How true.
Constructive damage to the status quo is essential if we want our merger, acquisition, restructure, or even our innovation or customer service drive to take hold.
We can’t afford to play at the margins. Your business becomes the change program. Change is not a part-time activity in the hope of achieving critical mass.
If the troops argue, “I can’t do the change program and my day job,” reply with, “OK, then do the change program.”
People are more motivated to change habits and ways of thinking when in a murky state of flux, rather than in a pool of calm.
Here’s how to capitalise on creating the right team by using the right new recruits.
Keep The People Mix Moving
Companies in stasis, tend to have static employee populations. That is to say, people move up in predictable lines, team composition remains the same or at best, people of a similar background or training join the team. Recruitment is marked by either conscious or unconscious clones of the current managers or employees. It is understandable that we choose teams with potential for minimal conflict. Yet this alone can herald our downfall.
For transformation to occur, we need to change the composition of the senior management team. This is essential. And even more important if the top team has been working together for a long period, because they will likely think and act in similar ways over time. These people, while well intentioned, can be the unhealthy keepers of old orthodoxies. Innovation and movement will always be limited, while ever this situation exists.
A Range Of Solutions
Perhaps you have heard the axiom, “If two people in a meeting agree, one of them is redundant.” Think about that. The companies that are offering strong thinking in terms of results are those that encourage a range of solutions for their external or internal customer, not just one.
Welcome The Outsiders
Wave the flags and welcome the ‘outsiders’. If you are serious about change, bring in new executives from outside the industry to quicken the transformation process.
Market analysts will express concern about the industry knowledge of the incoming chief executives. What the astute ones realise, from research and experience, is that often it can be a distinct disadvantage for the new CEO to hale from the same industry.
Customers Vs. Technology
Lou Gerstner was himself an outsider when he took over the ailing IBM. Paul Taffinder (1998) cites Gerstner’s interview with Fortune magazine, as saying, “I start every day with customers but this is an industry that starts every day with technology. It is driven by its technical accomplishments, which are enormous. But what happens in the marketplace is driven by customers. The Internet has been around for over 25 years. What made it suddenly emerge?
“Well, the real issue is that customers are changing the way they’re thinking about information technology.”
Encouragement of new blood coursing through the veins of the boardroom, fleshy ideas attaching themselves to the current skeleton of the organisation will yield healthy outcomes. Have the strength of corporate character to stretch beyond the known. This faith should be founded on the ability of the new bloods to utilise knowledge and processes rather than rely merely on product and industry knowledge.
Picking The Right Outsiders
New people who are good, look for ways to be successful by utilising the clever application of their broad knowledge – rather than applying a potentially narrow range solutions because they have been indoctrinated by experience in a sole industry. Employ people who can triangulate their thinking and work with tangential concepts – not people who just make linear progressions based on limited models.
You want a leader who queries clichéd industry wisdom with the cynicism of a cautious parent, yet the openness of a young child. A leader who does not allow things to go unqualified or unquestioned.
The Sydney Morning Herald (Sat 7th July 2001) in Elizabeth Sexton’s story, ‘Society of Friends’ in referring to James Packer’s involvement with One.Tel, spoke of the dismissal of the previous CEO and his replacement, who is more like minded to Packer himself. A fund manager asked, “So do you now get the same level of due process and rigour and independent thinking when new opportunities come up?”
The market is conscious of healthy debate and challenge within the hallowed halls of big business. True commercial leverage can be gained by valuing the professionals who focus on ways of working and thinking, not just on product.
Written by Jill Sweatman
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